Answer: You are getting the runaround from everyone. American Airlines should have been able to reissue the credit as a check when Chase rejected its payment.
Why didn’t it? I can tell you why, in principle: Travel companies, and especially airlines, are fast to take your money but slow to return it. It’s just part of their corporate DNA.
In practice, I don’t know why this particular refund took so long. I asked American about your case several times (more on that in a moment) and I’m not even sure if it knows.
This was preventable. When you’re waiting for a refund back to a credit card, it’s best to delay any changes to your account. Some are unavoidable — for example, if your credit card is stolen, you need to cancel the card immediately. But short of that, I’d postpone any kind of upgrade, downgrade or revision to your card. Changing your credit card account can confuse a travel company, causing further delay on top of an existing delay, or in extreme cases, leading to an outright denial of a refund.
I post the names, numbers and email addresses of American Airlines’ customer service executives to my Web site. An appeal to one of them might have been helpful. But American isn’t the only company to blame for this problem. Your credit card company could have done better. A written appeal to someone higher up at Chase might have helped. (Email addresses at Chase usually follow the format firstname.middleinitial.lastname(at)chase.com).
I’m not sure if calling Chase or American helped your case. An email is probably far more efficient and gets you faster results. Phoning may make you feel better, but there’s little evidence it accelerates a refund of this type. Here’s another thought: In the future, try making a reservation through a travel agent instead of directly with an airline. An agent would be able to help you with a refund, at no extra charge.
I contacted American on your behalf, and after a few more weeks of trying to track down your money, it finally sent you a check for the full amount of your airfare.
(Phot: zanzibar/Flickr Creative Commons)